Streams

Chicago Teachers Suspend Strike, Classes to Resume

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

education, classroom, school, school supplies, class, teachers, students (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Chicago teachers are suspending a seven-day strike in the nation's third-largest city, a move that will send thousands of students back to classrooms.

The union's House of Delegates voted Tuesday to suspend the strike after learning details of a tentative contract agreement.

A proposed settlement was presented to delegates during the weekend. Sticking points included teacher evaluations and job security, provisions at the core of a debate about the future of public education across the nation.

Jubilant delegates poured out of a South Side union hall singing "solidarity forever," cheering, honking horns and yelling, "We're going back."

Most were eager to get to work and proud of a walkout that yielded results.

"I'm very excited. I miss my students. I'm relieved because I think this contract was better than what they offered," said America Olmedo, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade bilingual classes. "They tried to take everything away."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the settlement "an honest compromise" that "means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago public schools."

"In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more," the mayor said, referring to provisions in the deal that he says will cut costs.

Union President Karen Lewis said the union's 700-plus delegates voted 98 percent to 2 percent to reopen the schools.

"We said that we couldn't solve all the problems of the world with one contract," Lewis said. "And it was time to end the strike."

Tuesday's vote was not on the contract offer itself, but on whether to continue the strike. The contract will now be submitted to a vote by the full membership of more than 25,000 teachers.The union delayed its vote on the contract to give teachers more time to assess it.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had pushed for a quick resolution as parents found alternatives for about 350,000 students. He even went to court to try to force teachers back to class.

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